And The Walls Fell Down Flat
November 22nd, 1959 @ 8:15 AM
AND THE WALLS FELL DOWN FLAT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-22-59 8:15 a.m.
All of you who listen on the radio are sharing the services, the early morning services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled And the Walls Fell Down Flat. That is one of the most colorful of all of the stories in the Bible and one that our Negro spirituals sing about. The story is in the sixth chapter of the Book of Joshua. And if you will turn to it, we will follow its message – Joshua, chapter 6:
Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, none came in.
And the Lord said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor.
And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days.
Seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets.
And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all of the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat.
Not just halfway fall down or totter around or creak, the wall of the city shall fall down flat –
When the Lord does something, He really does it –
The wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.
So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests, and said to them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord.
And he said unto the people, Pass on, and compass the city, and let him that is armed pass on before the ark of the Lord.
And it came to pass, when Joshua had spoken unto the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns passed on before the Lord, and blew the trumpets: and the ark of the covenant of the Lord followed them.
And the armed men went before the priests that blew with the trumpets, and the rearward came after the ark, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets.
And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout.
So the ark of the Lord compassed the city, going about it once: and they came in the camp, and lodged in the camp.
And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord.
And seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord went on continually, and blew with the trumpets: and the armed men went before them; but the rearward came after the ark of the Lord, the priests going on,
And the second day they compassed the city once, and returned in the camp: so they did six days.
And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city about the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times.
And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city.
Verse 20 –
So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that, the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.
At the end of the chapter, you have the story of how Joshua saved Rahab, the innkeeper, and her house [Joshua 6:22-25]; Rahab, who had placed the sign of her faith and her trust in the window; the scarlet line [Joshua 2:14-21].
Well, no wonder they sing about that. And no wonder that story is one of the most familiar in the Bible. It’s one of the most unusual and one of the most colorful. For you see, it was God who was leading, and the Captain of the hosts of heaven was giving to His people in the earth a lesson. It was a lesson they were to learn then. It is a lesson that we are to remember today. The Lord said unto Joshua, "See, look – see, I have given thee the land." Joshua 6:2: "See, I have given unto thee the land."
There will be a time for the warriors to fight. There will be a day of marching conquest. There will be ample opportunity for every man of valor, of courage, of commitment, to do a great work for the Lord. But first, but first you must remember to look away from yourself to heaven. First, you must learn to obey. First, you must learn to trust in the Lord. Then, the Lord will bless your efforts. Every man with a sword in his hand, with a tipped lance, with a sling, with a bow and arrow; every man shall have his place and his worthy part. And there is an assignment for every soldier and every man of war. But first, you are to learn that the victory is of God; to lean upon His strong arms.
Now as we go along in the story in the Book of Joshua, you are going to follow all kinds of battles; all kinds of ambushes; all kinds of wars. And these nomads, out of whom God is making a great people, they will be doing a valiant and worthy thing in the power of heaven. But first, they are to learn that the gifts of God are bestowed out of the abundance of the grace and favor and mercy of God’s heart. "See, I have given thee the land" [Joshua 6:2].
I often wonder at these men; so many of our able men, and successful men, men of genius and affluence, the great magnates of industry, so many of them are persuaded that what they do, they have done by their own genius and their own astuteness and their own financial ingenuity and ableness. Ah, would it not be a great thing for our nation, would it not be a marvelous thing for America, would it not be a glorious thing for every corporation, for every institution in this earth, if its leadership would first remember that the benedictions and blessings and favor upon them and upon us are always gifts? They are gifts of God. We have opportunity to use what God has given us. God gives us an open door. Every man, whatever gift he has, shall have a glorious opportunity to excel in the gift God has bestowed upon him. But first, God would have us know, and be pleased that we learn, these things are from His gracious hands. "See, I have given thee the land" [Joshua 6:2].
Now, last Sunday morning, I spoke on The Warrior Christ. In the last part of the fifth chapter of the Book of Joshua, Joshua sees the theophany of the Lord Jesus – a preincarnate appearance of the Angel of the covenant, the Angel of the presence, the Angel of the faith, the Angel of God; the second Person of the Trinity. And he says to Joshua that, "as Captain of the hosts of the Lord am I now come?" [Joshua 5:14] So what is done here is done at the commandment of the warrior Christ. And the Leader of the hosts of heaven is guiding the assault upon this crumbling nation in Canaan’s Promised Land. So it is God doing this. It is our Lord doing this. It is the Captain of the hosts of heaven that has arranged this attack.
Now, I want us to look on the inside of Jericho. "Now Jericho was straitly, straitly shut up"; pushed together. Straitly – a strait, s-t-r-a-i-t and a sea, it is where the sea is pushed together. A strait gate – s-t-r-a-i-t – a strait gate would be a narrow gate; pushed, shoved together. "Now Jericho was straitly shut up" [Joshua 6:1]. I want us to look on the inside of that town. The fifth chapter of Joshua begins: "their heart melted, neither was their spirit in them anymore, because of the children of Israel" [Joshua 5:1]. The last part of the first verse: "their heart melted, neither was there any spirit in them anymore." They were straitly shut up.
On the inside of Jericho the people were confused and bewildered. Isn’t that a surprising thing when Israel crossed the flooded Jordan, nobody disputed their passage? And even now, camped over there at Gilgal between Jericho and the flooded waters, there was no issuing forth of the men of war from Jericho. There was no night attack. There was no ambush. There was no attempt to contact, to contest the rise of these nomads to set foot on their ground. Isn’t that a strange thing?
There is an impending doom. There is a darkness that has overwhelmed them. They are – they are like people who are so afraid and so confused, they don’t know what to do. And they are there in that city, straitly shut up, fearful. That is an awful way to be – afraid! "The wicked flee when there are none to pursue" [Proverbs 28:1]. Afraid; lack of faith; sin; all of these things that belong to the flesh, and the world, and the devil, and the darkness make people afraid. It is only God’s people that have great illimitable confidence.
And if you do not have it, you have lost your close contact with heaven. No man is ever going to lose when the Captain of the celestial hosts of glory is leading in the way. May have some downs; may have more downs than ups; but you are not going to lose. The future belongs to the people of God. It does not belong to the Jerichoites. They are afraid – afraid of the night, afraid of the grave, afraid of death, afraid of judgment, afraid of the future. Not the people of God. Nothing lies in their destiny but glory and heaven and victory and triumph. Jericho is afraid. "They are straitly shut up" [Joshua 6:1]. I can imagine Rahab, from her house on the wall, looking down into the streets filled with terror-stricken people – men and women wringing their hands and crying, "O Hadad, save us! O Asherah, have pity upon us. O Ashtaroth, lend us thy strength today."
Now, in the early, early dawn, a sentry on the uneven wall of Jericho peered out toward the east, toward the flooded Jordan, toward the highlands of Moab; peered out to the east and thought that he saw a movement in the camp. In a little while he called to the sentry at the next angle in the wall, and the two of them together peered out into the darkness of the early dawn. There is a movement in the camp earlier than they have ever known before; and one of the sentries says to the other, "Do you think we should arouse the captain?"
"No," says his companion, "Our captain has been so weary of false alarms, I am afraid to call him." So they continued to look and to peer in the darkness of the early morning. Finally, one of them says, "I know there is a great movement in the camp." And his companion says, "Yes, yes indeed." And they call the other sentries and they all look, and they see the camp on the march. The captain is aroused. He looks out toward Gilgal, toward the east and the flooded Jordan, and he gives the commandment, "Blow the trumpet! Every man to his post!" And the people began to cry, "O Hadad! O Asherah! O Ashtaroth, save us!" And Rahab has given orders that under no condition is any member of her family to leave the house.
Now over there in Gilgal, in the camp between Jericho and the Jordan River, Joshua is giving his last and final orders. First, the men of war; then seven priests in white; then the young priests; bearing the ark of the covenant of God; then the people; then last, those in the arms of the tribe of Dan. So the long procession begins to unwind. They do not know why but they are acting according to the commandment of Joshua, who has received his orders from the great celestial Captain in glory. And the long procession moves quietly, silently onward. There is first the tribe of Reuben, then Gad, then the half tribe of Manasseh. Then you have the seven priests with the seven rams’ horns; then you have the young priests bearing on their shoulders the ark of God covered with its blue covering; then the great pile of the people; then the tribe of Dan bringing up the rear with its armed men. They come to the wall. There is something uncanny about their silence – not a sound. Just once in a while, the blowing of the seven trumpets before the ark of the Lord; no word; no sound; no attack; no raising of mounts; no scaling of ladders; not a bow is shot; not a lance is thrown; not a stone is slung. Following the uneven wall of Jericho, they marched silently around; and then, as silently, returned back to the camp [Joshua 6:12-13].
Can you imagine the consternation on the inside of the city of Jericho as that great throng silently marched around those uneven walls? Even the women and the children come to peer over the battlements; just out of bow shot; just out of lance thrust. There they marched in silence all the way around the city. It is an amazing thing! It is an uncanny thing. It is a bewildering thing. Is this something that a strange and unknown God has dictated? Is this the prelude of the attack? The king shakes his head in astonishment. Is this a fantasy? Is it a phantom? Is it a dream? Has this thing really happened?
After they encompassed the city around as silently they go back to the camp for the rest of the day and the night. Can you imagine how it was in Jericho that night? What is this? Why, it was enough to drive the city crazy. Talk about a war on nerves; everybody in the city of Jericho, I suppose, stayed wide awake that night. What could this mean and what is this thing? And the next day, those same sentries see that early movement in the camp; and the blast of the trumpet on the walls of Jericho and every man to his post with his sword in his hand. Not an attack; not a taunt; not an insult; not an epithet; not a word said; not a discussion; not a thing; not a word; just silently passing around that wall and then back to the camp. One day and two, four, five and six days that went on [Joshua 6:12-14]. On the seventh day, the same thing again except this time, on the seventh day, they went around, they compassed the city seven times [Joshua 6:15]. And when they had completed, the seventh time, according to the word of Joshua who, following the word of the great Commander in heaven, the priests – the priests blow with a tremendous blast on the trumpets, and the people all shout with a great shout [Joshua 6:16, 20].
And when the priests have blown with the trumpets, and then the people have shouted with a great shout, 1,400 years later, the author of the Book of Hebrews said: "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days" [Hebrews 11:30]; an astonishing thing that was written large and deep and indelible in the very soul of the memory and history of the people of God. And to this day, an astonishing thing, one that these archaeologists – I have been over there myself, as have many of you – but over there they have dug up those buried walls, and you can see for yourself how those walls – there were two of them around the city. It was a double wall around the city; doubly protected – how those walls caved underneath, and when the bottom gave way, the walls fell down flat. And every man walked straight in front of it, and they took the city. And out of the falling debris and the flying brick and the dust and dirt and sin of Jericho, according to the word and promise of the Lord, Rahab, the innkeeper was spared and her house [Joshua 6:22-25], all who were behind the scarlet line [Joshua 2:14-21].
Now, may I take the story and in the few minutes that remain, say a few words to us. First of all, you have here a marvelous lesson from God Himself. "Be still. Ye shall not shout." Joshua 6:10: "Ye shall not shout nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any words proceed out of your mouth. Be still and quiet before God." That is a difficult thing for an empiricist. That’s a difficult thing for a pragmatic American. Oh, we have got to be doing it. We have got to be moving it. We have got to be shoving it along. That is of all things characteristic of America. We are activists.
That’s not bad altogether. It’s only bad when it means that you have no time for God. Let me get my monkey wrench. Let me get my screwdriver. Let me get this wheel a-going, and we are so busy that we never are quiet. Why, we just lose our mind. Where is the television set? I am here with a few moments on my hand. I am going crazy. Where is the television set? It is on the blink. Where is the radio? It is on the blink, too. Where is the picture show, I have got to be entertained. Isn’t that a strange development in the life of our American people? I have got to be entertained, and if I am not entertained I am miserable. Oh, oh, oh, oh!
Surely, there is no ultimate strength in a people or in a soul that cannot find in meditation and in prayer and in Bible reading and in consultation with God, great hours of profit and strength and benefit. We have got to change our sets of values. It is a great thing, not a bad thing, for people to find in that quiet hour and in that quiet moment sources of strength and help that see us through in the times of trouble and death and darkness. I think it is a shallow, shallow; a silly, silly; a cheap, cheap people alike that has to be ever everlastingly entertained; cannot find any strength, any joy, any gladness, any meaning, any purpose, other than to sit and be entertained. Be still! That same thing was said at the entrance of the Red Sea when Israel was greatly shut up. "Why?" says God to Moses. "Why all of this talking and all of this crying? Be still and see the salvation of the Lord" [Exodus 14:13-15]. And like the psalmist says in the forty-sixth Psalm, "Be still, and know that I am God" [Psalm 46:10]. There is not to be any word or any voice or any shout. Be still! There will be a time to speak. There will be a time to testify. There will be a time to shout. But now, wait, wait on the Lord [Psalm 27:14].
We must hasten. A second thing here, in the third verse: "Thus shall thou do" [Joshua 6:3]; ah, to learn to be obedient, to wait upon God and to look to God; "Thus shall thou do." There wasn’t a soldier in that whole army who had any idea what this thing was. That’s God’s way so many times. Man’s ways are different from God’s ways. Isaiah says speaking of the Lord, "As the heavens are higher above the earth, so are My ways [higher] than your ways"[Isaiah 55:9]; just to obey. We are not to put up scaling ladders until God says so; not to build mounts until the Lord gives the order; not to shout when God says to be still. But we are to wait upon the Lord, obey in the obedience of the Lord.
God does His work and He does it in His way and in His time. For example, it is only God that can give a body to a grain of corn. We can put it in the ground and we can cultivate it, but God has to make it grow. God has to give it a body [1 Corinthians 15:37-38]. We have to wait upon the Lord. It is only the Son of God who has hands that are able to multiply the loaves. We just distribute it, that is all [John 6:10-11]; waiting upon the heavens [Psalm 27:14].
I tell you, you would have a revival, did you know it? You would have a revival – I mean a real revival if our people felt we may have a part in the visitation program and all these things that enter into the modern methods of evangelism. But, oh we must wait upon God! And there we are praying, and looking to heaven and asking the Holy Spirit to do His office work, and convict the sinner of his sin and convict of us of the sterility of our barren souls. I do not know what would happen, I just do not. But it would be a revival that would break out among the people just waiting upon God, looking for God [Psalm 27:14]. "Thus shalt thou do" [Joshua 6:3]; obedience.
And then this last and so brief a thing. And of course, it is an everlasting unforgettable lesson that by faith, by faith, they believed that somehow – though they did not understand and they could not see and they never had any experience; yet by faith, by faith, they were persuaded that God would give them that victory. "See, I have given into thy hand" [Joshua 6:2] and in the Book of Hebrews as I read: "By faith, the walls of Jericho fell down flat" [Hebrews 11:30]; just believe that God will do it. Faith, I know He will.
Isn’t that a remarkable thing? You don’t have to worry about the iron gate, it will open of itself [Acts 12:10]. You do not have to worry about the stone on the sepulcher, it rolled away when you get to the tomb [Matthew 28:1-2]. You do not have to worry or be concerned about the waters of the flooded Jordan. When you put your feet in the first tiny wavelet it will part, flee away. You will go through on dry shod [Joshua 6:3-4]. Ah, just having the faith; just having the persuasion; God will do it. He said, "Compass the city." We are compassing the city. It has been a long time since God’s children encompassing the city. Surely, the day is not far off when the command will be to shout, and the trumpet of the archangel will blow, and God will give His children that ultimate and final victory in the earth [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. Have faith in God.
Now, we sing our song. And on the first note of the stanza, would you come and stand by me? Somebody you to give his heart to the Lord, "Here I am, preacher, and here I come." A family to put their life in the fellowship of the church, would you come? As the Spirit of God would say the word and lead the way, would you come? This is His work. This is His appeal. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. This is His church, and His congregation. If the Lord bids you this morning, would you make it now, while we stand and while we sing?
AND THE WALLS FELL DOWN FLAT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. God’s timing for fighting
1. First the believer must put his trust in God
2. Look at God and not at self
II. Fear in the hearts of Jericho
III. In the Christian experience